In 1893, baseball moved the pitcher’s mound back to what has become the classic 60 feet 6 inches. The reason I mention this is because it is pretty illogical to compare statistics, records and performance rates of players in the years before and after this major change. The game was utterly different.
That point addressed, what Rube Waddell did in 1904 was, at the time, one of the best pitching performances of the 60’6″ era. Coming in to the season, the mound had been at that distance for eleven seasons already. By the end of the twelfth season with these parameters, Waddell would be able to claim the top three K/9 rates, his 8.02 in 1904 being the second highest ever, and the fourth best ERA of that era, at 1.62.
That season Waddell struck out 349 batters, a record that stood for 61 years, when Sandy Koufax broke it in 1965. No other player post-1893 had yet crossed the 300 mark at that time. He was a big man for the time, a lefty with speed, and was incredibly intimidating because of notorious antics – partially due to his alcoholism and partly due to his legitimate psychological dysfunctions. He was a scary opponent.
He finished second in both K/BB ratio and in ERA-. He lead the league in fWAR (though not in RA9 WAR), leading the league in FIP but suffering from a rather high BABIP.
Rube Waddell, 1904
IP – 383.0 (4th)
Strikeouts – 349 (1st)
K/BB – 3.84 (2nd)
ERA(-) – 61 (2nd)
ERA – 1.62 (3rd)
fWAR – 9.2 (1st)